The Capitol Police officer who shot Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to breach the House chamber on Jan. 6 revealed his identity in an interview on Thursday, recounting how he helped lawmakers to “blend in” with staffers to avoid being harmed by the mob.
Lt. Michael Byrd, a 28-year veteran of the Capitol Police, said in an NBC Nightly News interview that dozens of House members and staffers were “trapped” inside the House chamber after officers used furniture to barricade the doors, with “no way to retreat.”
Byrd recounted to Holt how he instructed lawmakers to remove their congressional pins and jackets to “look like staff as much as possible,” and that many members “started to believe serious harm or injury could come to them.”
Byrd, who shot Babbitt as she attempted to climb through a broken window to the speaker’s lobby, said he was all that stood between rioters and lawmakers and insisted that he “saved countless lives” with his actions.
Byrd said he “tried to wait as long as I could” and hoped nobody would attempt to get into the chamber like Babbitt did, calling the shooting a “last resort” but adding that he took “appropriate action.”
Some Republicans have cast Babbitt as the victim of an “execution” because she was unarmed, but Byrd told Holt he “could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack,” and noted the rioters had “shown violence leading up to that point.”
The Department of Justice in April closed an investigation into the shooting, concluding that Byrd acted in defense of himself and lawmakers and staffers. The Capitol Police gave similar reasoning earlier this week in its summary of its review of the incident, stating that he “potentially saved Members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters.”
“They talked about killing me, cutting off my head, very vicious things… There were some racist attacks as well. It’s all disheartening, because I know I was doing my job,” Byrd said of threats and criticism he got online after his name was leaked.
President Donald Trump had repeatedly called for Byrd, whose identity was previously being guarded, to be unmasked and defended Babbitt, falsely claiming last month that he was on the security detail for a high-ranking Democrat. Trump said earlier this month Babbitt “truly loved America,” claiming she was “murdered.”